Amorphophallus is a genus of tuberous plants in the Araceae family. They are grown by devoted collectors for the beauty of their single compound pinnate leaves, which give them a palm like look, very exotic. A few are brave enough to confess they find the bad smelling flower one of Nature's wonders.
Amorphophallus henryi N.E.Br. is native to Taiwan where it grows in forests, bamboo plantations, orchards, in heavily to lightly shaded places, on thin soils on limestone bedrock or in karst areas. It has a solitary green leaf with oval or irregular whitish spots and a solitary flower, glossy pale green on the outside and dark maroon on the inside, the base densely covered with warts. It smells of decaying meat or cow dung. It is unusual in having blue or purple berries. Photos from Arnold Trachtenberg and Robert Parks.
Amorphophallus konjac (syn. Amorphophallus rivieri) is a widespread species from the eastern Himalayas to China and the Philippines. The first 2 photos were taken by Angelo Porcelli of plants that used to be known by the name Amorphophallus rivieri var. konjac. It is known by common names of Snake's tongue or snake palm. This variety is grown for food and produces masses of child tubers. The third photo was contributed by the UC Botanical Garden.
Amorphophallus mossambicensis (Schott ex Garcke) N.E.Br. is distributed from central Tanzania to southern Tropical Africa. Plants will put up an inflorescence usually just prior to the start of the rainy season with seeds ripening some two months later. The leaf stalk starts to emerge after the inflorescence withers and dies back towards the end of the rainy season by about March. Photos by Nicholas Wightman taken in Lilayi, Zambia.
Amorphophallus muelleri is a species native to W. Thailand, India (Andaman Islands), and Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Timor, Sulawesi). The photo below from Monica Swartz shows one of the seedlings she is growing from BX 198. She especially loves the pink edge on the leaf. All the subsequent leaves have had the pink edge as well.
Amorphophallus myosuroides Hett. & A.Galloway is native to Laos. It's a tiny species, tubers of 1.5 to 2 cm diameter are capable of flowering. There seem to be 2 forms in trade, one of them with decorative silver midribs on the leaves. The 4-5 cm long, internally white spathe has fine brownish veins on the outside and is towered over by a creme white spadix of about three times that length. The flowers are not notably scented, which is a bonus in this genus.This species can flower up to three times per season and should spend its dry dormancy at or only slightly below room temperature. Pictures show a plant grown by Martin Bohnet.
Amorphophallus pygmaeus Hett. is a species native to Thailand. The leaves are typically nearly black.
Amorphophallus pygmaeus 'Pewter Pan' is a selection from Plant Delights Nursery. The leaves have a beautiful silvery sheen. The flowers produce a terrible scent of bleached metallic dead animals, but only for one night. The plants are small and only reach about 15 cm (6") tall. They grow in the summer in good well-drained soil and go dormant in the winter under dry conditions. In dormancy, the tubers should not be allowed to get too cold or they will rot, even if kept dried. The photos below were taken by Nhu Nguyen of a plant grown by Uluwehi Knecht. Photos 1-2 show the foliage and 3-5 show various aspects of the inflorescence.
Amorphophallus titanum has the largest unbranched inflorescence of all plants. The species is endemic to the island of Sumatra. It grows entirely in tropical climates. Mature plants transition between forming a flower, then dormancy, then forming a leaf, with each period lasting about six months apart. The flowers are said to have an unpleasant smell, although some plants don't seem to smell at all. Once extremely rare, botanical gardens around the world now have cultivated enough stock to sell young plants to the public. There is a paper by W. Barthlott, J. Szarzynski, P. Vlek, W. Lobin, and N. Korotkova that analyzes the heat of the spadix entitled A torch in the rain forest: thermogenesis of the Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum).
The first photo below of the flower in bloom was taken by Nhu Nguyen at the UC Botanical Garden. The second photo taken by Bob Rutemoeller shows the fruit that followed after the August 2007 flowering. Photos 3, 4 and 5 taken by Colin Davis show the inflorescence from a distance and up close, with a window cut out of the spathe showing male and female flowers. Photo 5 shows a rooted cutting from a leaf tip.
On Easter Sunday 2011 Gary Meltzer's Amorphophallus titanum flowered in Hilo, Hawaii, and the plant was taken to the zoo in order that the public could enjoy it too; this was the first recorded blooming of this aroid in Hawaii. While in bloom he contacted the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and a botanist - Dr. Elizabeth Stacey - readily agreed to help in the pollination. She brought her graduate class to witness what may be a once in a lifetime event too. Pollen was received from Binghamton University in New York state, so the end result was a nationwide effort. All seeds were distributed to public gardens and universities that would display them in the future. A member of the public took a short video of it at the zoo. Another video showing the pollination a little better.
Photo 1 and 3 by Gary Meltzer, photo 2 by Dick Murdy. Photo 1 shows the tuber which weighed 60 pounds/ 27 kg when last dormant along with 30 cm pasta spoon for scale and photo 3 the fruiting body with 45 cm ruler.